and pagan prophets and augurs in Rome predicted the victory of Maxentius.
Thus Maxentius believed that he had the aid of the divine, and as a result
he abandoned his earlier plan of waiting for a siege.20 The
results, of course, were disastrous, but it is important to note the manner
in which the usurper acted when he had been assured victory.
Constantine, this promise of victory came in his famous dream and vision
about which Eusebius wrote.21 During the time of Constantine,
it was not rare for a person to have visions or dreams and to see them
as extremely significant.22 Constantine himself had previously
had dreams,23 and he had seen many visions, including one from
Apollo.24 Thus it is entirely possible that Constantine had
a dream and a vision, or at least that he believed he had.
20. Ibid., 6. J.
21. Stevenson, ed., A New Eusebius. rev. ed. (Cambridge, 1987), 283-284
(Eusebius, Vita Constantini, 1.26-9). The account of the vision and dream
reads as follows:
"…A most incredible
sign appeared to him from heaven, the account of which it might have
been hard to believe had it been related by any other person. But since
the victorious emperor himself long afterwards declared it to the writer
of this history, when he was honoured with his acquaintance and society,
and confirmed his statement by an oath, who could hesitate to accredit
the relation, especially since the testimony of aftertime has established
its truth? He said that about noon, when the day was already beginning
to decline, he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light
in the heavens, above the sun, and an inscription, CONQUER BY THIS attached
to it. At this sight he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole
army also, which followed him on an expedition, and witnessed the miracle.
He said, moreover, that he doubted within himself what the import of
this portent could be. And while he continued to ponder the reason on
its meaning, night overtook him; then in his sleep the Christ of God
appeared to him with the sign which he had seen in the heavens, and
commanded him to make a likeness of that sign which he had seen in the
heavens, and to use it as a safeguard in all engagements with his enemies."
22. Grant, 138, 140.
23. Ibid., 140.
24. See Grant, 139 and Stevenson, 282 (Panegyrici Latini, 6(7).21.3-6).
The pagan vision that Grant cites comes from a panegyric to Constantine
in 310. According to Stevenson, "the panegyric, delivered at Trier, justified
the death of Maximian, revealed the (fictitious) descent of Constantine
from Claudius II (268-270), and emphasized his reverence for Apollo."
The panegyrist describes a scene in which Apollo appears to Constantine,
and Constantine is presented with laurel crowns by a Victory.